Voices by Joaquin Phoenix, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas
Why does Disney always kill off a parent in its animated features? The goner here is the mother of Koda, an adorable bear cub who is a main character in this rather disturbing adventure tale from the folks who previously knocked off four-legged or finned moms and dads in Bambi, The Lion King, Finding Nemo and others.
Parents presumably are sacrificed so that pipsqueak protagonists can mature by confronting big challenges. In Brother Bear, Mama Bear croaks so that Kenai (Phoenix), a youth in the Pacific Northwest late in the Ice Age, can be magically transformed into a bear himself and bond with the newly orphaned Koda (Jeremy Suarez), thereby learning valuable life lessons about love and responsibility.
The animation, much of it hand-drawn, is lovely, but there are far too many terrifying scenes of death or near-death for viewers who are small and easily scared. (G)